12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 6: Baked Peppers And A Series Of Kitchen Flops

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So this past week has been somewhat of a disaster for me in the kitchen. A week where I planned and prepped but crashed and burned, literally. I had specific recipes in mind to test and photograph, and not one of them turned out right. I lost my kitchen mojo.

I wanted to bake bread and make rosemary potatoes, neither of which worked out. The bread dough didn’t rise properly, and I left the potatoes unattended, which led them to burn to blechness.

Then I tried Sarah Britton’s cumin roasted carrots, but I didn’t slice them well enough and they came out all wrinkly and gnarly, hardly appetizing.

And then I thought I’d make some strawberry jam, because I’ve done it before and jam is always Christmasy. I went and bought a box of strawberries- and when I was ready to make jam, I opened the fridge to discover my toddler had eaten all but 3. Oh well.

Sometimes plans go awry. And the perfect post you plan in your head doesn’t materialize. So I decided to forget the recipes altogether and just go impromptu. Make something that I would like to share with friends, something I’d rustle up for a last-minute dinner. I took inspiration from Nigella Lawson’s baby aubergines recipe from Nigellissima, and from Simon Hopkinson’s Piedmontese peppers recipe.

So here I give you an “unrecipe,” something that works for me when I mess up in the kitchen. And I think it would be nice with some crackers and feta for holiday party.

I took a handful of baby eggplants, one large red pepper and sliced them up. (I removed the stalks of the eggplants.) Then I tossed everything with olive oil, sea salt, garlic, red chilli flakes and some dried herbs  and poured everything into a baking dish, drizzled more olive oil and baked at 200 C for about 45 mins. A squeeze of lime/lemon over the top once done, and fin.

DSC01174Here’s hoping the week ahead will turn out better.

 

12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 5: Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake

20141106_131346I discovered this recipe when I was browsing through Amanda Hesser’s old columns in The New York Times, pre-Food52. I am a big fan of her writing, and she shares some really interesting recipes and tidbits about the history of food. This comes from her Recipe Redux column, which she wrote as she researched and compiled The New York Times cookbook. Hesser would take a recipe from the NYT archives, hand it over to a contemporary chef, mixologist or cookbook author and ask them to add their own twist and update the recipe.

While she uncovered dozens of old gems, many of the recipes, when tested by modern chefs, weren’t met with enthusiasm- they lacked flavour, texture, or both. Many NYT readers, however, preferred the older recipes. For her farewell column, Hesser chose a recipe titled Evelyn Sharpe’s French Chocolate Cake from 1969, which was a universal hit. A recipe ahead of its time, quite similar to the molten chocolate cakes/bull’s eyes/chocolate decadence cakes you’ll find in restaurants today.

I’ll vouch for one thing: it’ fudgy, rich and oh-so-chocolatey, a safe end to any meal. It’s fudgy in the middle like a brownie, but has a moist crumb as well. It’s not entirely flourless, but calls for just a smidgen of flour- a tablespoon. One could easily swap in almond meal or a gluten-free flour to make a gluten-free version.

There’s another thing I’ll vouch for: you absolutely must use the nicest dark chocolate you can lay your hands on. Spend a little more, buy Callebaut/Lindt/good quality chocolate and your cake will not disappoint.

I made this recipe twice before posting. Once, with a cheap chocolate I found at the grocery store and the second time around with Lindt intense dark chocolate. The first slab of chocolate I used- which was packaged nicely and labelled “stone ground dark chocolate compound,” was a quarter of the price of the Lindt bars, but TERRIBLE. I kid you not- the cake smelled like a baked potato and tasted like plastic. I threw it out, the entire thing. The recipe is all about the chocolate, so use the best.

 

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EVELYN SHARPE’S FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 450 grams semisweet chocolate
  • ½ cup/110 grams butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

 

METHOD

  • Heat oven to 220 C.
  • Grease the base of an 8-inch cake pan or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate gently using the double-boiler method.
  • Once melted, pull off heat and stir in the butter, flour and sugar. Lightly whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix into the chocolate. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg whites until they hold a definite shape but are not dry. With a light hand, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. (Overbeating and underbeating will ruin the cake!)
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Open the oven door, leaving it ajar, and allow the cake to cool completely in the oven.
  • Serve warm, with some whipped cream or ice cream.

WHO IS EVELYN SHARPE?

As for who Evelyn Sharpe is, I honestly don’t know- a 1960s New York society lady, perhaps? Luisa Weiss has a link to the comments section of the original NYT recipe on her blog, but unfortunately, it doesn’t open. We’ll just think of Evelyn is a nice lady who gave the world a fabulous recipe!

12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 5: Banana Toffee Granola {Recipe Redux}

I’m down with a cold this week, one of those irritating ones that leave you bleary-eyed and itchy-nosed. Happens every year as the weather changes! I’m doing a quickie post this time around as a result. Recipe redux: granola, with a little twist. I added toffee chips! ‘Tis the season for toffee nut lattes, and it’s also the season to toffee up your granola. A little indulgent? Yes. Delicious? You bet. It’s easy to make and the only extras you need are butterscotch or toffee chips. I used Heath Toffee Bits, which are crunchier than Nestle Tollhouse Butterscotch morsels.

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BANANA-TOFFEE GRANOLA (Adapted from Food52)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2cup mixed seeds and nuts (I used watermelon seeds, walnuts and almonds)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed well
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used canola, but Food52 suggests olive oil/coconut oil/almond butter)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates and raisins
  • ½ cup toffee chips

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 170° C
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat, rolled oats, seeds + nuts, and spices.
  • Add the mashed banana, oil, and honey/maple syrup to the dry ingredients and mix well so that everything is coated.
  • Add the toffee chips and mix well.
  • Spread the mixture evenly across a baking sheet lined with Silpat and bake at 170° C for 20-30 minutes, until fragrant and golden. (You should gently stir the mixture at the halfway mark.)
  • Transfer to a bowl and fold in the dates and  raisins.
  • Cool before transferring to a container.